SAN FRANCISCO DEL RINCON, Mexico — Former President Vicente Fox said Wednesday that a Donald Trump presidency could lead Mexico and the United States to ‘‘serious’’ diplomatic problems and a trade war that would hurt both countries.
A day after Trump stretched his lead over his Republican rivals with wins in Michigan, Mississippi and Hawaii, Fox said that if he were to raise duties on Mexican goods to fund border wall construction, Mexico would have to react in kind.
‘‘Let’s suppose he establishes tariffs, just imagine. We put tariffs on the (hundreds of billions of) dollars that the United States sells to Mexico,’’ Fox said in an interview with The Associated Press. ‘‘We are going to lose everything in a trade war.’’
Trump has vowed to make Mexico pay for the barrier he wants to build along the length of the 2,000-mile (3,000-kilometer) border, and has proposed measures such as raising visa and border card fees, seizing remittances, imposing tariffs and cutting foreign aid.
Fox, who on several recent occasions used an expletive to deny that Mexico would ever foot that bill, disparaged the GOP front-runner an ‘‘absolute nightmare’’ who flirts with white supremacists.
He accused Trump of wanting ‘‘unlimited power.’’ He added that there’s no way Trump can do everything he’s vowing to do, and suggested that his tough talk on Mexico and China would backfire if put into practice.
Trump has criticized trade deals with Mexico as causing U.S. jobs to leave the country. He has also alleged that immigration from Mexico is bringing drugs, crime and ‘‘rapists’’ to the United States.
‘‘He should know we Mexicans are small but spicy like chili peppers,’’ Fox said. ‘‘Don’t mess with us. Don’t offend our dignity.’’
‘‘Republican Party, where are you? Wake up!’’ Fox continued, switching to English. ‘‘Wake up, America, from this nightmare, from this Republican, Trumpist nightmare.’’
The former president added that he believes Hillary Clinton will ‘‘save’’ the United States, Mexico and the world from a Trump presidency.
Fox, a conservative who was president from 2000 to 2006, also criticized Bernie Sanders as a proponent of socialism and the kind of ‘‘stupid’’ populism that led to ‘‘deep crises’’ in some Latin American nations.
He argued that America appears to be caught between two extremes in the current campaign, saying both Sanders and Trump ‘‘are making the United States look very bad.’’
Nor does he think much of Trump’s main remaining rivals for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
‘‘They denied their (Latino) origin,’’ Fox said. ‘‘I don’t like them.’’
But Fox reserved his harshest words for Trump, as he has again and again as the billionaire real estate mogul racks up wins in GOP primaries and caucuses. Trump responded in kind during a recent Republican debate, saying Fox should be ‘‘ashamed’’ for using profane language to attack him.
‘‘We are going to have serious problems,’’ Fox said of relations between Mexico and a hypothetical Trump administration. ‘‘Diplomatic problems, problems between neighbors.’’